Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, released a statement about the band’s decision to bow out of the Israeli festival Pic.Nic, saying: “The decision was not reached easily. We all know well the Israeli fans have been waiting for this visit for far too long. We’d like to extend our deepest apologies to the fans, but events beyond all our control have conspired against us.” I’ve read this statement over and over again and if Black intended to transmit an effective political message through this cryptic and ambiguous message, he has failed. Which events have conspired against him? Is he referring to the Gaza Flotilla? And if so, how is that an event that has conspired against Kim Deal? Black & Co. have squandered their opportunity to say anything meaningful and are responding to the current situation in a childish and inconsequential way. What do they hope to accomplish by punishing civilians for the mistake of a military response? Was the reunited foursome asked to perform at an army base–if so, I would understand this decision. But once you start punishing a country for the mistakes of its soldiers, you’ll end up ceasing to play in places like the United States, England, Russia, etc. Tell me, Mr. Black. Where is your mind?
Elvis Costello, who has canceled a mini-tour in Israel, has issued an eloquent, if not naive, statement: “I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.” Two problems with this. 1) Yes, the Israelis are partly to blame for the deplorable conditions only because they are restricting what comes in and out of Gaza through the tight security based on concerns of weapon smuggling. That being said, Hamas has given Israel very little reason to feel comfortable doing otherwise. 2) When the rock legend says “in the name of national security,” he unintentionally undermines the validity of said concern. There’s a great many things a country can do in the name of national security especially when the country is on the defensive as Israel is. Israel’s need to protect itself is not a proactive initiative, but a reactive one, and frankly, intimidation and humiliation are two small human conditions when they are sized up against a fear of extinguishment.
“I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation,” Costello adds. Then why cancel the shows? Once again, punishing Israeli citizens for the unfortunate political atmosphere is ultimately pointless. If anything, longtime fans may end up resenting the bespectacled songwriter. He did however articulate that the conflict “too grave and complex” to be addressed at a concert. So I’ll give him that. You can’t talk about suicide bombers and checkpoints in between “Pump It Up” and “Alison.” One point, Costello.
The blogosphere is atwitter because the Gorillaz have also announced a cancellation of it’s appearance at the Pic.Nic festival. Damon Albarn, co-creator with Jamie Hewlett of the cartoon rock band franchise, hasn’t issued a statement regarding the decision which makes the band’s cancellation politically worthless. But I happen to know that the sometimes Blur frontman is a vocal proponent of the Free Tibet movement (in fact, one of his animated band members sometimes bears a Tibetan flag sticker on its animated guitar). Since, once again, there was no reason given, political or otherwise, for the no show, I can only assume that Albarn equates the two regions–Gaza and Tibet–as mirrored instances of senseless oppression. Whether its condition is deplorable or not, Gaza is still technically a democracy.
However, in regard to the British indie rock band Klaxons and it’s cancellation: Israel, you’re better off. Trust me.